09/09/2013 08:47 am ET Updated Nov 09, 2013

Claiming a Seat at the Table

As a woman business owner and president of an all-female public relations firm, I am often asked how to best compete in a man's world. Certainly women have made great strides in the workplace, but still lag woefully behind men in the boardroom even though they account for more than half of the college graduates in the United States.

Through my own roles as a career woman, lifelong volunteer and political activist, I have had my share of welcome advice. But perhaps the most valuable counsel is that women should not try to emulate men; rather, they should leverage those skills that are natural and comfortable for them such as cooperation, empathy, sensitivity, relationships-and, yes, even entertaining.

My thoughts of late have centered on women and our positions because one of my role models, Lindy Boggs, former U.S. Congresswoman (D-LA) and Ambassador to the Vatican, died in August, 2013, at age 97. Lindy's life truly exemplified that a woman can be successful marrying femininity with firmness, and she lived and led with a graciousness that made her one of the most effective women in public office. Her recipe for success was simple. Treat people as you would like to be treated. Be confident and passionate in what you believe and in what you do. And network and diversify your sphere of contacts. What you may discover is that regardless of political affiliation or position, you may, indeed, share a common purpose. It is in taking the time to discover our shared purposes that will lead us to a better quality of life.

In her acclaimed book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, challenges women to claim their seat at the table, not acting like men but taking their cues from them, leveraging those female traits that make us more effective, thus bringing balance and perspective to the issues at hand.

Lindy's life is testament to the notion that we as a country make better decisions and are more effective when many voices are heard.

While it is essential that all women become involved in issues that enrich our community, it is critical for more women to step up and take stronger strides in the political and business arenas where they can bring people together, find common ground and improve the quality of life for women, children and families.

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.